My One Piece of Advice for New Traders

So I’ve re-written a gold-making guide about six times now. It’s gone from being super in-depth, to being basically cliff notes on my personal gold-making strategies, to honestly just a rambling rant. Every time I go over it, I trash it because even after being active in the trade world for almost 5 years, I still don’t necessarily feel qualified enough to give unsolicited advice. So after much thought and deliberation, I’ve narrowed my not-guide down to one piece of advice I wish I had been given when I started flipping items on the market. And here it is:

If you’re starting out, don’t focus on buying and selling mats.

Now I know that sounds counter-intuitive, considering a lot of the big wigs generate huge amounts of gold from mat sales. But hear me out. Mats sales are on a spectrum, and there are foot holes that will trip up and bog down a newer trader across the entire thing. Buy when the deal is too good not to, but focus your efforts on learning other markets: motifs, set pieces, furniture plans, etc.

Let me elaborate a little, and please note that this only has to do strictly with buying/reselling and not farming.

There is something that my husband and I jokingly refer to as “the Hemming trap.” You see, if you’re vigilant in your shopping habits, you can pick up stacks of Hemming for as little as 2-6k. All. The. Time. Now we’re knowledgeable, market savvy folks, right? So we know that we can split that full stack of Hemming up into smaller stacks of 10 and sell them for 800-1000g pretty easily. Simple math: buy a stack for 5k and we’ve got 20k sales potential, 15k profit – fantastic margins! Now this is all fine and dandy until you wind up with 50 stacks of Hemming and sales are moving super slowly because each stack requires 20 listing slots. Oops, why on earth did I spend 200k on Hemming? In short, because IT’S A TRAP. And it applies to a lot of mats.

Mats that you can buy easily in bulk with a HIGH profit margin on resale usually have lower overall demand, require smaller stacks to push profit, can easily choke your trader with too much inventory, and tend to sell at a trickle. When you focus on these kinds of mats, you run the risk of overstock and not being able to move inventory quickly enough to outpace your buying.

There are two ways to keep this from happening: diversify and sell on multiple traders. Remember, I said this theory applies to A LOT of mats, to include: green and blue upgrade mats, elegant lining, less popular style mats, non-CP160 solvents, non-CP160 refined mats, white provisioning ingredients, non-Kuta runestones, the list goes on. So instead of dropping 20 small stacks of Hemming on the same trader, consider limiting that number to 4 or less and diversifying with small stacks of other mats. This prevents you from throttling sales and from needing to pull mass inventory if a price shift knocks you out of the market. Lastly, folks who do the best with these markets sell across several accounts and over dozens of traders. There is a lot of money to be made here, but it requires a hell of a hustle that the average trader isn’t ready to fully engage.

Now on the flip side, mats that are more difficult or costly to buy in bulk (such your gold upgrade mats) generally have a much higher demand but way lower profit margins (note that your profit margins are basically the % of money you take as profit after sale). I like to think of these mats as a “wholesale market.” Wholesalers generally are looking for a minimum 15-25% margins and move massive quantities of inventory daily.

So let’s take a look at Dreugh Wax. Currently it’s around 7k trade value. Remember that 8% of that is going to listing fees or store tax, so take home value is closer to 6.5k. In order to start being profitable, you want to buy your dreugh wax in bulk at absolutely no more than 5.5k each, but ideally closer to 4.5-5k. Even then, you are only making 1-2k on each sale of Dreugh Wax. In order to really start generating profit, you need to be both buying and selling in huge quantities – moving several stacks a day. This is one of those classic situations where you need to have money to make money. It is totally doable, but you really need to make contacts with some (Chinese) farmers and have at least a few million gold already to get your feet wet. Otherwise it’s a huge hustle with a relatively low payoff.

The mats market is really either an entry-level market (easy to learn and start slowly making gold) or an experienced, dedicated trader market (sellers who push millions a week, have supplier contacts, and sell across more than one account). Folks in the middle like myself, who have limited time and are maybe a bit lazy in terms of the hustle, don’t get the full benefit of flipping on the mats market.

It was about 2 years ago that I finally let go of my need to sell mats and switched focus to motifs and set pieces. When I did that, my average daily sales jumped from 75-150k to 400-700k (which is still chump change compared to a lot of the major sellers). If you are still growing as a trader, my advice is to focus first on shopping around for severely mispriced non-mats. I know that it’s intimidating to step out into other markets, but once you do, you’ll realize that mispriced set pieces, motifs, furniture mats, furnishings, etc are surprisingly common. I take into account what sets are currently in high demand (Necropotence, Mother’s Sorrow, Plague Doctor, Crafty Alfiq, Briarheart, Deadly, Spell Strategist, etc), and then look for the desired traits (divines, impen, sharpened, infused) and pick up anything that falls into both of those categories for cheap (I usually look for under 3k on armor and under 20k on weapons, depending on the weapon). Get to know your motif values – they are so easy to flip. And if you’re struggling to fill your trader up with these items, that’s when I would use mats as my filler. With this strategy, you can generate 2-3M in sales a week without the mat hustle – which is enough to quickly open the door to the mat hustle if that’s a market you’re really interested in.

Understanding the Monthly Data Dump

ESO Xbox Sales History has too few data points. It’s only based off of so many sales, and therefore a poor representation of the market.

every critic ever

Okay, to begin, Xbox Sales History is not a price guide. It’s a sales database. I can not emphasize this too much. Your number one resource for checking accuracy on pricing is major city traders in-game. Second is probably knowledgeable traders willing to lend their expertise. And somewhere fairly far down that list is pricing apps like ours – a tool that’s best for a quick ballpark.

Now that aside, let’s discuss real quick why ESO Xbox Sales History often has very few data points, even on some fairly high volume items. This is mainly due to what I refer to as either the Monthly Reset or the Data Dump. That’s right, we purge old data on the regular.

It may seem almost counter-intuitive at first, but the goal of ESO Xbox Sales History is to be a somewhat accurate snapshot of sales across the past 30 days in guild stores. That data gets skewed if it’s weighed down by information that was gathered one month, two months, three months ago. The ESO market is extremely fluid and shifts daily. When you have too much data, you can not show those shifts.

To illustrate, let’s look at an example: Zircon Platings.

As most know, platings in general have been steadily declining in value over the past few months. Right now zircon platings are comfortably in the 29-32k range on trader. But only a few months ago, folks were still able to push as high as 40k on zircon. The last row in the table shows where Zircon Plating would be sitting if we didn’t dump data. As you can see, the median (33k) is actually outside of the majority of sales (29.2-32.6k). Not only that, but the sales range gets much larger, both when looking at the majority of sales and the overall minimum/maximum. This data is an inaccurate representation of the current market, and it’s also a confusing representation showing sales data in a huge range from 22k to 43.5k per.

Without the reset, we would have several hundred data points on Zircon Platings, but that amount of data actually starts to hinder our ability to be accurate to the true and current market. So instead we have a few dozen data points that give us a better look at value.

This effect is not just limited to crafting materials, as seen in the major fluctuations in Spell Strategist jewelry value:

While medians have stayed somewhat consistent, sets operate slightly different in that max/min values are huge indicators of market power. As time has progressed, Spell Strategist has started to stabilize a bit, resulting in a much more narrow range of value. But this could not be indicated without dumping old data to really see how the market has self-adjusted.

How the data dump is done:

Now when we say “data dump,” we aren’t literally purging down to base zero. At the start of every month, data is instead consolidated into a handful of data points. The number is dependent upon how the data is broken down in each category. Categories that have only a min/max/median keep only their median value. Categories that have a min/lower/median/upper/max keep their lower, median, and upper values at average stack size.

For example:

When we understand how old data is consolidated, then we can see that the few data points left over actually represent a lot of data. Only three sales may be the consolidation of tens to hundreds of sales, but now our data is flexible and can show shifts in the market more accurately.

The difference between ESO Price Check and Xbox Sales History

As most of y’all know, I am the original developer of ESO Price Check. And as most of y’all know ESO Price Check is now defunct (please note this blog does not pertain to ESO – The Pricechecker, which is an entirely different app). I’ve seen some question and concern on that front, so I just wanted to take a second to explain my motivation for handing ESOPC off in the first place (spoiler alert, it was not about money), why ultimately, I believe ESOPC went under, and the difference between ESOPC and Xbox Sales History.

I launched ESO Price Check in May of 2016. At first, it was purely a web-based price guide that was created to help out my guild (RIP Unrest). In November 2016 the app launched on the google store, followed by iOS in January. In February I got a wonderful but demanding job offer that cut deeply into my game time. It got to the point where all my game time had to be dedicated to tracking in order to keep up, and even still I started to fall behind and resent it. Instead of closing up shop, I found a fantastic woman to take the reins. I did not make thousands of dollars selling off ESOPC as the rumors might say. I transferred everything to Mandy, who was also a trade GM at the time that I trusted. She and I shared similar opinions on transparency, on work ethic, and on creating a tool that was for the community over being for the money. I have zero regrets in choosing her to take over.

newblog1

What I do regret is the entire system of tracking and reporting that I single-handedly implemented and then passed on to the lovely ladies who kept the project alive. ESO Price Check was a disaster on the backend. It was not intuitive and required an immense amount of manual work. The only thing that was auto-populated on the sheet was averages. Everything else was user-input.

newblog3

This is how each tab in the master google sheet for ESOPC looked (note this ss is from Feb 2017 when temps were a bit inflated). Column B is the only formula-generated column. There was no attached database. I will humbly admit that my knowledge of spreadsheeting was not strong enough to even know what to do with a database or how to start with integrating one. So instead, any time a sale was recorded, the recorder had to manually adjust Column D and E (total sales and total gold in sales). For example, if I wanted to record a sale of 10 grain solvents for 9k, I would have to manually change Column D to 48 and column E to 192300. You’re doing math in your head or math on a calculator, but either way tracking a single sale was incredibly time consuming. On top of that, the “estimated value” column was subjective and based on my analysis of the data I had available. It needed to be manually adjusted frequently, adding another level of work to the list.

To make matters worse, the means of disseminating the information on the master sheet to the website/app was exhausting. For the website, easily enough, you could mostly copy and paste. But again, that’s around 15+ sets of data that needed to be pasted into different pages to be updated. Now the app was a whole other process. The sheets were coded via css/html and you had to go line by line to update average and estimated range on every. Single. Item. It could take hours just to update sections of the app. And one accidental error in the coding could cause the entire app to crash catastrophically. Not to mention that the third-party developer that I chose was very difficult to work with in the event of such a crash (which happened frequently).

It was a really rough system on the back-end. But it was the system that I created and that I passed on. I created something that required an excessive amount of work to function properly, was extremely demanding of any parties involved in the tracking process, and was even more so unforgiving of any errors made along the way. I totally understand why anyone would walk away from it and maintain nothing but respect for the women who fought to keep it up as long as they did.

So how is Xbox Sales History any different?

I am currently a financial accounting student, and during my studies I discovered exactly how little I know about excel. While I still am barely skimming the surface, I am comfortable enough to be entirely embarrassed of the way I set up ESOPC. Xbox Sales History pulls all of its information from one sheet that is used as my master database:

newblog4

This database automatically calculates my averages. The only things I input are name, quantity sold, and sale price. With the auto-suggest feature of excel and the fill option for identical sales, I can record 20 sales in the time it would’ve taken me to record a single sale before. I can burn through 100 pages of a guild’s sales history in about 60 minutes. That’s 700-800 datapoints an hour. While I know volume is always a concern with the list, I promise you that current volume tracked is significantly higher than it was with ESOPC as well as the diversity of information. The database is the only thing I edit unless recording a new entry that does not currently exist in the list.

Every other value in the entire sheet is formula generated. ❤

newblog2

Each sheet uses an array formula to pull data from the database, match it to the item defined in column A, then return the information in the rest of the columns. I use various functions attached to the array function, including min, max, median, percentile, and sumif. The beauty is that the list is no longer confined to average and that’s all. We can take a good look at a range of data and start really analyzing the information gathered.

Sharing this information to web/app is also significantly easier than it was before. The reality is that I don’t have to touch the website or the app for it to be updated. Instead the sheets are directly embedded into the website and the app was built specifically around the spreadsheet using a third-party developer called AppSheet. I do zero coding, zero copy/pasting, zero work on the back-end besides updating the database. Any changes to the spreadsheet are automatically applied to both the website and the app within 5 minutes of altering.

Essentially the amount of manual work required to keep Xbox Sales History going is a fraction of that needed for ESO Price Check. This database is not the rebirth of ESO Price Check, it’s the creation of something entirely different and much more self-sufficient and manageable. One that I hope to maintain much more long-term. 😊

Price Guides: What are they? How are they helpful? And how are they not?

So when I started this project, I wanted to make sure that I took on the database with complete transparency. That means being 100% honest about the volume of sales recorded, about the process that goes into deriving the numbers you see, and about the fact that this information is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the ESO economy as a whole. There are segments of data that, while extremely desirable, simply aren’t that relevant in really understanding the value behind an item.

In this blog, I’d like to explore the two main sources of price lists; their pros and cons; and what other tools you have at your disposal to make an educated decision when pricing your items.

  • Manually Derived Console Data:
    • Method used by: ESO Xbox Sales History and ESO – The Pricechecker

What Is It: The data available on both this website/app as well as the PS4-EU pricing guide, ESO – The Pricechecker is all manually recorded from sales histories of guilds.

Pros: The data is true market data that reflects actual sales from Xbox NA (or PS4-EU if using Pricechecker).

Cons: Manual collection means the volume of data collected may be too low to accurately represent the market as a whole. These lists are biased towards the source from which they are derived, often high-end trading guilds that command slightly higher prices. Updates may not be frequent enough to catch sudden shifts in a very fluid market.

Verdict: These kinds of price guides are often very useful for items that have a high demand, such as mats and consumables. However, they can become a lot less useful when examining data from less saturated market segments such as set pieces, recipes, and blueprints. This is because there is simply not enough data available to draw a true representation of these markets.

  •  Add-On Derived PC Data
    • Method used by: Tamriel Trade Centre, ESO Price Lens

What Is It: Add-Ons allow PC players to automatically run all available data from guild listings and compile a complete and concise list of accurate pricing details.

Pros: All encompassing. There is a high volume of sales data available across every market segment. While not accurate to console pricing, PC data gives a good indication as to whether or not an item has value or is junk.

Cons: These price lists are not from the console economy and therefore are not true reflections of the console market. There is not a one-size-fits-all price adjustment to get from PC price to console price.

Verdict: While not especially helpful for getting an absolute accurate price, PC add-ons are really useful in simply determining if something has value. This data helps pick up the slack where manual lists are especially weak: set pieces, blueprints, etc. It is a good tool to have in your arsenal, as long as you understand that it is actually reflecting a different sales market. If an item is valuable on PC, it is still going to be valuable on Xbox. You may simply have to do deeper research to determine exactly how high that value is.L

  • Other tools at your disposal

I will be the first to tell you that price lists are not the be all and end all of pricing data. It’s always been my opinion that, while useful to a newer or more casual player, major traders will eventually grow out of them – using them more to confirm price instead of figuring out price. While your in that process of growing as a trader, it is important that you start learning for yourself how to recognize value, plan for market fluxations, and become more confident as a seller without the absolute need for price guides.

Until that point, I recommend the following:

  • Find a community in whose knowledge you trust and don’t be afraid to ask them their thoughts on the value of a particular item. Knowledgable traders are an asset to new traders, seek them out.
  • Join a guild that is dedicated to trading and watch their sales history for yourself. This is real and recent data, up-to-the-minute information on where the market is at.
  • Window shop different traders and see where their listing prices are at. This is always helpful when pricing items such as set pieces.
  • If you are going to use a pricing guide, do so with a grain of salt. I work hard on this database, but even I know it is not perfect or infallible. It is not law. Understand the difference between console guides that manually input their data and pc guides that automatically source. Both have their uses and their challenges.

The more you learn about the market on your own, the easier it will be to make pricing decisions with confidence. ❤

Happy Selling.

What is the Small Stacks Market?

If you are newer to the ESO economy or generally a text chat/facebook/band seller, then there’s one aspect of the price list that’s likely to trip you up. In fact, it’s been a common cause of cynism since ESO Price Check was created back in 2016. I get it every single time:

How is the median price of cotton higher than that of Ancestor Silk? This guide is inaccurate, cotton is not worth more than silk. 

Challenge.

There is a lucrative market that I like to refer to as the “Small Stacks Market.” The idea is that value goes up as stack size goes down. Picture this, you are a new player. You are excited to craft your first new set of gear, but you need cotton. Low-level gear requires very little material to craft. It’s not like CP160 that will require several stacks for a full set. So 25 cotton is going to go pretty far. On top of that, you don’t have a whole heck of a lot of gold in your pocket, so we’re on the hunt for something “affordable.” You stop into a guild trader, it’s automatically sorted from cheapest to most expensive, and the first bit of cotton you stumble upon is 25 for 3000 gold. That’s not a huge amount of gold out of your pocket and it’s just the right amount of material – SOLD.

This same concept applies to the vast majority of non-CP160 mats and even extends to blue and green upgrade mats, provisioning ingredients, furnishing mats, and alchemy solvents (you might be shocked to discover you can get around 40k out of some of your lower level solvents). The catch? This market is almost exclusively a trading guild market. You wont find yourself especially successful trying to sell stacks of Hemming for 20k on the street. But break them down into stacks of 10 for 1k on trader, you’ll sell at a trickle all week long.

Now before you get excited and start buying up all the cheap stacks of mats to resell, I must leave you with a word of caution. Small Stack sellers have huge profit margin potential, but sales are slower and at much lower revenue amounts than other markets. You also run the risk of choking your market if you don’t maintain variety (filling 30 slots on a trader with only embroidery will actually slow your sales). And lastly, you can fall into the trap of overstock. Suddenly you’re sitting on 20 stacks of hemming and only moving one every 3 weeks or so. That’s where you stop being cost-effective. (Don’t keep more than 1-2 stacks of hemming, it’s literally the worst.)

The Small Stacks market is really most effective when you’ve got a good variety and are selling across multiple accounts to bring in maximum revenue. However, if you’re looking for a slow but consistent and stable market to get into, this is one of the lowest risk markets in the game.